Much Good Has Sprung From Misfortune

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People are understandably in a funk these days. They’re trapped in their houses. People are sick or dying. Every day greets us with more grim news.

One thing which has been surprising to me throughout my life is how some of the greatest blessings have been born from what seemed at first to be negative circumstances. I thought I’d share three unrelated anecdotes to make my point.

The first is from back in 1994, when my little business Prophet was at the cusp of going under. (If you’re interested in the history of Prophet, there’s a cool documentary about it here.) I had started the company with an investor (the fabled Andy Bechtolsheim, now one of the richest men in the world) and a programming partner.

The programmer wanted out. He had lost interest in the struggle, and he and I weren’t getting along very well. He proposed selling his third of the company back to me and Andy for the sum of $25,000, which he knew was expensive considering how worthless everything was. Let’s just say it turned out to be the best investment of my life.

Not only was a person out of my life who was causing me a lot of emotional grief, and not only did I own 50% more stock, but I also was forced to learn to program well enough to keep the company afloat. I learned more about REXX, databases, and web servers in the weeks that followed than I ever thought possible. I saved the company, and myself, by my engineer basically dumping me.

The second tale happened a dozen years later, after I sold Prophet to what would eventually become Ameritrade. I was no longer an entrepreneur. I was a ridiculously overpaid employee with nothing to do. I had a boss that increasingly pissed off with me, and I felt unneeded, unappreciated, and lost.

My wife goaded me into starting a blog so I could write about my trading. I resisted at first, decrying blogs as a fad, but I eventually did my first post on March 29, 2005, and I called the blog Technically Speaking. This would, of course, eventually become the Slope of Hope, and it has been my livelihood, my passion, and my reason for living for fifteen years now.

The final, and for me the best, example, has to do with ProphetCharts. Ever since 2004, ProphetCharts has been the center of my universe. It was the basis of all my trading, all my analysis, and all my decisions. And now, with a popular blog, it was the basis of almost everything I was writing about.’

However, late in 2016, I got word from the powers that be at Ameritrade that they were going to kill the product. They were letting me know as a courtesy, since it was my baby. I knew the day would eventually come that ProphetCharts was going to be killed, but it was sickening to hear the news. (As a side note, in typically bureaucratic fashion, it took them almost three years to “kill” the product, but when they first told me, they made it sound like it would be gone within days).

Armed with no engineer, and very little money, I decided to do something I never thought I’d do again in my life, which was to create a charting platform from scratch. The result,, of course, was SlopeCharts.

There’s much more to it than that, however. What I realize now is that by being “forced” into creating a new charting platform, I was likewise compelled to create a website which, in the end, was greater, grander, better, and more feature-rich than Prophet.net.

I am exceptionally proud of Slope and what it has become, and had it not been for the corporate pukes at AMTD deciding that ProphetCharts needed to be killed, the Slope of Hope today would still be just a blog, instead of the coolest financial website on the Internet.

So although I don’t think I’d actually have the wisdom to embrace bad news, I can at least in quiet moments recognize that, as the Chinese saying goes, crisis rides the waves of opportunity. This is truly a grim time in world history, but once the dust settles – – whether it’s in a few weeks or a few years – – I would hope that humanity will collectively be the better for it.

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